The Great War

from Songs & Sonnets for England in War Time, an electronic edition

The Answer

When Honour on her silver bugle blows a point of war

Then Englishmen arise

With battle in their eyes,

They can only give one answer, as their fathers answered, for

The choice that they are making

Is fighting or forsaking,

And a false, fair-weather friendship is a lie that they abhor.

O'er the narrow seas the Gallic cock was crowing shrill alarms,

He saw them coming forth,

The War Lords of the North,

He said -- "My little soldiers, it is time to fall to arms;

But our coasts are lying bare,

Will England do her share?

A friendship that is fickle is the worst of Fortune's harms.

"Through Luxemburg and Belgium they are marching in their might,

They trample on the weak,

Our overthrow to seek;

They tear up every treaty, and they laugh at every right;

Will England see her name

Put thus to open shame?

Will she see her Royal pledges torn in pieces in her sight?"

But the Germans in their arrogance our Minister addressed,

Half-wheedling, half-commanding --

"Let us make an understanding,

Her coasts we will not batter nor her ports will we invest;

If you will stand apart

While we pierce her to the heart,

We will let you show your friendship by a bargain for the rest."

Then Sir Edward Grey replied, to the honour of his race --

To what England puts her hand,

Upon that she takes her stand,

She will not barter treaties in your German market-place,

Nor will she condescend

To pledge away a friend,

Such contracting out of danger were for ever her disgrace."

So o'er the perilous seas to Death or Victory we go,

Our sailors rushing forth,

To give battle in the North;

There as it was aforetime our ships will meet the foe;

And our brave soldiers too --

The Baltic, Waterloo

As then so now, twice armed are we since Honour backs the blow!

Morning Post, August 8, 1914

Notes

["...It would be a disgrace for us to make this bargain with Germany at the expense of France, a disgrace from which the good name of this country would never recover." -- Sir Edward Grey to Sir E. Goschen.]